e-Book

7 Skills for Successful Product Leaders

The product-led movement is blurring the lines between product, engineering, marketing, sales, and customer success. Instead of a product team’s responsibilities being narrowly defined around shipping a feature, it now falls on product’s shoulders to partner with sales and marketing to reimagine the product as an acquisition tool, collaborate with customer success to employ the product as a vehicle for onboarding and retention, and even ensure executives view product analytics alongside revenue data.

The role is changing. Product features are giving way to customer experiences, and in order to deliver meaningful experiences, today’s product leader needs to form a new set of skills and build new habits. Fortune favors the bold. The first to adapt to this shift are rewarded.

Take Silicon Valley, the epicenter of tech innovation. There you’ll find the chief product officer title commonplace. A product leader on the executive team was unheard of a decade ago. Now we’re hearing more and more stories like the one in which the CEO of Qualtrics (one of the world’s largest survey providers) told his head of product, “The future of the company is on you.”

These are the tailwinds that are propelling forward the product function. While individual expertise may lag the pace of change, good habits will help bridge the gap. In this guide, we share seven future-proofing skills and traits that we picked up from some of the world’s highest-performing product leaders. Enjoy, and thanks for reading.

Brian Crofts
Chief Product Officer, Pendo
Pendo E-book: 7 Skills for Successful Product Leaders intro image

0 Introduction

“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Historian Will Durant

When you work in product, it can be tempting to look at examples of famed product gurus, like Steve Jobs or Elon Musk, and think that being a great product leader is all about imagining breakthrough ideas. Investors call them “black swans” – products that, themselves, spawn new markets. The iPhone. Self-driving cars. You get the idea. As a product leader, if you spend enough time reflecting, you’ll inevitably come up with the next “big thing,” right? Probably not.

Top product pros are more do-leaders than thought leaders. For all of their ample brilliance, Jobs and Musk actively led the development of their most popular products. The key ingredients behind their recipe for success were work ethic and good habits, along with a dash of genius. In order to become a great product leader, you need to put in your 10,000 hours, as Malcolm Gladwell would say.

The good news? In this guide, you’ll learn the seven key areas where you should be spending those 10,000 hours. And along the way, you’ll receive advice and words of wisdom from some of the world’s top product leaders, including:

  • April Underwood, investor and former Slack CPO
  • Jeetu Patel, CPO of Box
  • Alexander Aghassipour, CPO & co-founder of Zendesk
  • Tomer London, co-founder & CPO of Gusto
  • Jack Chou, CPO of Affirm and former head of product at Pinterest
  • Joe Gebbia, co-founder & CPO of Airbnb

Ultimately, our goal in writing this guide is to help you become the best product leader possible. It’s part of our overarching mission to elevate the craft of product management.

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